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September 6, 2010

New York Times Public Editor seeks to maintain "sacred cloak of impartiality." Isn't it a bit late?

Atlantic Yards Report

In his second column, Arthur Brisbane, the new New York Times Public Editor, is already wading into deep waters.

His column yesterday, In an Age of Voices, Moving Beyond the Facts, expresses alarm about news articles that contain "opinion" or "interpretive journalism":

When I asked Matt Bai about his Aug. 12 “Political Times” column on Representative Paul Ryan — the one Mr. Johnson criticized — he said: “I guess my column is part of a broader effort to take some chances in the paper and explore different formats for a new era. I think that represents a great and exciting trend for the paper; none of us can afford to think in old rubrics for new generations of readers.”

Bai’s editor, Richard Stevenson, the deputy Washington bureau chief, elaborated on how The Times is navigating the new norms. “We are still exploring how much of a voice you can have ... what kinds of conclusions you can draw when it comes to politics,” he said.

A news-page column like “Political Times” carries the “freedom to reach a reported conclusion,” he said. Not to “throw opinion around,” but to “express in a restrained and fact-bound way a conclusion about something.”

The "reported conclusion"

I think the notion of a "reported conclusion" is legitimate. Why? Because the Times, and the "objective" press, is full of implicitly reported conclusion.

Consider, for example, the egregious example of the Times quoting, without qualms, the claim last September by a New York City Economic Development Corporation spokesman that Atlantic Yards was "a site that is now an open railyard without any public benefit."

What made that claim even more egregious was that, well before the deadline for print, I posted a comment on the CityRoom blog demolishing that claim. I ran this all by Brisbane's predecessor, Clark Hoyt, who, predictably enough, ignored it.


NoLandGrab: If it emanates from Seth Pinsky's mouth, that ought to be reason enough for a healthy dose of journalistic skepticism.

Posted by eric at September 6, 2010 9:56 AM